MANCHESTER, NH – Any musical comedy that opens with a full-on production number in a graveyard is no doubt going to also deliver plenty of dead-pan one-liners, a singing zombie or two, a chorus of dancing ancestral ghosts and a macabre mix of musical interludes and dark humor.
But beyond the anticipated nostalgia and feel-good spooky undertones, the current production of “The Addams Family” at the Palace Theatre also reminds us that love makes the world go ’round, whether your family is disturbingly “normal” or happens to revel in life’s darker moments.
Manchester native William Hartery’s rendition of Gomez Addams provides the perfect anchor for the eccentric Addams Family – a musical production based more on the original comic iterations of Gomez, Morticia, Uncle Fester, Grandma, Wednesday, Pugsley and Lurch created by cartoonist Charles Addams, than the multitude of modern pop-culture spin-offs for TV and movie audiences that have been mounted over the years.
The two-act show, which continues through Nov. 14, is set in Central Park, where the Addams Family’s huge mansion is as out of place as its inhabitants. The plot is driven by a story line in which daughter Wednesday, played by Jennifer Fogarty, has fallen in love with a “normal” guy, Lucas Beineke, played by Danny Harris Kornfeld, and doesn’t quite know how to break it to her unconventional family.
She’s afraid to tell her mother Morticia, played by Chloe Fox, that she and Lucas are engaged. So, just before a dinner party bringing the two families together for the first time at the Addams mansion, Wednesday confides to Gomez her secret engagement, and gets him to promise not to tell Morticia, until after the dinner party.
Strip away the Addams family’s morbid fascination for death, torture, black magic, and suffering, and you are left with a basic boy-meets-girl plot that includes all the challenges and pitfalls that go with the territory – measuring up, family secrets exposed, the pain of seeing your children grow up and leave the ghoulish nest, and figuring out how to get through it all without losing your sense of family.
Tender moments include a solo by Hartery, “Wednesday’s Growing Up,” and a father-daughter duet, “Happy Sad,” about the push and pull of parenthood.
Uncle Fester, played to the hilt by Brett Mutter, provides consistent comic relief as he enlists a ghostly chorus of ancestors to help Wednesday and Lucas make it to the marital finish line. He also steals the stage during a solo number, “The Moon and Me,” in which he manages a dance routine with the moon, “suspended” in air thanks to the magic of black lights and clever staging.
Megan Quinn, who doubles as company manager for Palace Professional Productions and Youth Theatre administrator, portrayed a feisty Grandma, and a young Ryan Christopher Dever delivered a believable Pugsley, whose character provides the plot twist, unleashing some unanticipated black magic on Lucas’ parents, played by Collin Kessler and Erica Wilpon.
Also delightful was the break-out solo by Lurch, played by Colby Morgan, who abandoned his mumbling zombie persona long enough to show off his impressive baritone pipes.
And of course, there’s nothing like the feeling you get from experiencing a polished musical production in a century-old theater when the live pit band, led by Zachary Ryan, delivers a flawlessly fluid soundtrack.
Bonus round: As we settled in to our seats at the top of the show, our collector cups in hand (purchased during a previous production of “Godspell”) enjoying an apple-cider-and-rum potion called “The Morticia,” we were pleasantly surprised when House Manager Janey Goldberg stopped by to offer to set us up with refills during admission.
She didn’t have to ask twice, and as promised, our drinks were waiting for us in the hospitality room between acts, giving us a little extra time to stretch our legs and make a quick phone call.
Nice touch, Palace.
“The Addams Family” continues with seven more shows:
Nov. 7 and 14 at 2 and 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 8, 2 p.m.
Nov. 12 & 13, 7:30 p.m.
Tickets range from $25 – $45 and can be purchased online or directly at the box office, 80 Hanover Street.